Thursday, March 27, 2008

Formal Blog

To find a complicated passage in the House of leaves was not a difficult task to do. I must admit I came across more than one passage that I had trouble understanding, but The Pelican Poems left me in the dark that can only be compared with the darkness found in the house on Ash Tree Lane. In an attempt to get some insight into the maze of footnotes on pages 137 and 138, I read the Appendix II-B or The Pelican Poems. However, I felt more confused than ever.

Usually appendixes are there to offer more information about a given text, but in the House of leaves they obviously have some other role. What I have learned from Jimmy Corrigan is that sometimes one needs to know how to read certain text in order to get its meaning. Unfortunately, House of leaves does not come with the instructions.
The only thing I was able to get out of the poems in Appendix II-B is that they represent Zampano’s poems written during his travels across Europe. Whatever deeper meanings these poems have it escapes me. The footnote that will eventually lead a reader to The Pelican Poems appears after the sentence, “ An old man’s mind is just likely to wander as a young man’s, but where a young man will forgive the stray, an old man will cut it out.”
Since at this point in the book, we are getting further and further away from the main topic, the Navidson’s film, if I can call it the main topic of the book, (not really further away but rather we get buried in the additional information, Magellan’s and Hudson’s expeditions), maybe Zampano is trying to justify all this additional information he is providing as necessary. He is an old man and yes his mind strays, but he is able to cut out the unnecessary. To prove his point he refers us to The Pelican Poems, the example of young man’s mind going astray. I know that this explanation is highly unlikely. But, I tried to look at the names of women some of the poems are dedicated to, to see if they match with the list of female names Zampano is repeating at one point in the book, no luck there. I could not think what the pelican might be the symbol for, so… I present you my lame explanation of The Pelicans Poems. I hope they will prove to have some meaning as I continue reading House of Leaves.

As for the form, the poems are not confusing as the page that referred me to them. They are chronologically organized from May 26, 1988 to August 12, 1990 with the exceptions of October’s Tapestry Sale and The Wednesday Which Pelican Mistook to be a Sunday and Caused Easle to Lose her Cards. I wander if misplacement of these two poems is important. If these two dates represent code for deciphering the meaning of the rest. The form of the page, for that mater the form of the chapter IX, in my opinion serves the purpose of picturing Johnny’s state of mind. By now, he is lost in the world of Zampano’s novel. He spends most of his time organizing Zampano’s text and writing his own. Through this bizarre layout readers are pulled in Johnny’s madness whether they want to or not. This confusing arrangement can also serve as an example of a labyrinth, to depict the sense of loss and lack of direction people in Navidson’s house must have had.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

For my part, I can only respond to the Pelican Poems with a confession: I think they are terrible poetry, and I hate it when novelists include terrible poetry (Danielewski at least had the decency to hide them away in an appendix).

Think about the dates. Obviously Zampano was not a young man (although if his mind was wandering is the distinction between young & old even clear?). So who was? Are these Johny's poems? Danielewski's poems? If the answer is "yes," then the fact that Zampano knows about them gives the novel a circular character: Zampano is writing about Johny who is writing about Zampano.

But what do I know? I truly despise the Pelican Poems, so I haven't given it very much thought.

I liked the work you started to do with the two specifics poems, by the way.

For some reason I read Brittnee's post before yours, and I want to connect the two. You note that the appendix doesn't function as an appendix should. So, following Brittnee's quote "the center is not the center," one thing I take away from this is "the appendix is not the appendix" - it serves some other function, which you are then trying to get at.